I have yet to see the debate myself or talk with anyone at length who has, but within the last hour The Marin Independent Journal posted a report by Richard Halstead entitled “Candidates for Congress clash over tax cuts, health care, campaign finance law.”
So all four candidates participated this time. I thought Mr. Smolen would be there since he had to miss the previous debate in Santa Rosa. But giving Mr. Ruyle another chance when he didn’t even receive 200 votes in the primary doesn’t make much sense to me. On Mr. Judd’s facebook page, he made a comment about the studio where the League of Women Voters insisted it be held:
…what an unprofessional atmosphere…. 10 people crammed in a small room like sardines with all the camera equipment. I can’t tell you how hard we tried to get the venue changed and the LOWV would not do so even at our expense.
From the IJ report it sounds as though they didn’t get the chance to cover much ground, which isn’t surprising since the debate was limited to an hour and there were four candidates to hear from in each round of Q&A. The report does say other issues were covered, but apparently they were not deemed significant enough for mention.
I’m not sure whether I find it amusing or sad that the IJ repeatedly fixates on Jim Judd’s prior association with the North Bay Patriots. Did the article say anything about Eugene Ruyle being an admitted Marxist (see here and here)? Did it note that Lynn Woolsey has been co-chair of the lefter-than-President Obama Congressional Progressive Caucus for the last six years and has been a member much longer? Nope. But I do commend reporter Halstead for getting his facts right about the North Bay Patriots.
It’s rather unfortunate that the forum dealt with the Bush tax cuts again. The candidates have been heard on this subject quite extensively. But Jim Judd did pledge not to to vote for raising taxes for four years, something he didn’t mention in the previous debate.
Interestingly only Lynn Woolsey defended the current health care legislation. Jim Judd said he would vote to repeal it. Libertarian Smolen said, ” ‘I think we should move into more of a privatization situation.’ ” And Mr. Ruyle again, as in the previous debate, advocated single payer (which is also the monopolistic system Lynn Woolsey has said she wants our health care system to end up being).
When the subject of campaign finance reform came up, Rep. Woolsey said, ” ‘Until we get money out of politics, everything we’re talking about tonight is up for grabs.’ ” Money out of politics? How is that possible? She means “private money” out of politics. She wants elections paid for by public funds. She says she wants “free media.” Oh really? How would that be accomplished? She said we should have campaign spending caps (which Joel Smolen tagged onto when he said “he would put a $50,000 limit on congressional campaign spending”). Jim Judd pointed out that candidates are already prohibited from taking corporate money. This, however, seems to be a concept that eludes Lynn Woolsey. I forgot to mention this in “The Rest of the Story” post below, but she also made comments about corporate campaign spending during the interview at the IJ, and Mr. Judd said then that candidates were not permitted to take corporate contributions. Only individuals may contribute to campaigns– either directly to a candidate or by contributing to a Political Action Committee (PAC) that then distributes the money. Richard Halstead cites the U.S. Supreme Court case that early this year overturned certain restrictions on corporate freedom to participate in elections. Congress had passed “reforms” that
prohibited corporations from making independent expenditures and paying for electioneering communications in elections for federal office—President and Vice-President, U.S. Senate, and U.S. House of Representatives.
The Supreme Court overturned these prohibitions “freeing corporations to use their corporate funds to take explicit positions on political campaigns.” But corporations may still not directly contribute to candidate campaigns (neither may labor unions, federal government contractors and foreign nationals or governments). Corporations can, however, pay for advertisements expressing their views on political subjects and persons. This restoration to what had been before Congress enacted the restrictive law was what Lynn Woolsey and Eugene Ruyle objected to. They don’t want corporations (unless they are media giants with “free speech rights” and a few other exceptions) to be able to influence voters through media ads. They want that privilege for candidates and political party machines.
How we run campaigns in the U.S. is problematic. There are many suggestions out there for running them more efficiently, less expensively, and more informatively. But the “progressive” idea supported by Lynn Woolsey, that all campaigns should be publicly funded is not the answer: it begs the question of how someone would qualify for those funds, at what level potential candidates would be prevented from running, etc.
Were there any questions on defense and foreign policy? On the ongoing “don’t ask, don’t tell” drama? On immigration policy? On the news that banks may have mishandled home mortgage foreclosures? On whether the health care legislation is even constitutional? On the added billions that Congress (with Lynn Woolsey voting “yes”) approved during its recent special session? On Lynn Woolsey’s idea that a private organization — the Boy Scouts — should be forced by Congress to change it policies regarding scout masters? On what specifics the four candidates could give regarding their plans to bring more jobs to this area? On what they thought the balance should be between environmental initiatives and industry? Nothing was reported on these subjects.
Hopefully interested voters will have plenty of opportunity to see this forum for themselves. First-hand observation always trumps someone else’s report. Still, it was good to see the IJ report fairly extensively on this forum and for the most part simply tell what the participants said instead of bringing someone (such as Brian Sobel) in to “interpret.” Thank you, Richard Halstead and The Marin Independent Journal.